Tidbits on Tigers & Japan

This post lists miscellaneous fun facts on Tigers & Japan. Interesting story of your own? Send in your fun fact(s) to the Webmaster Princeton Club of Japan! (TigetNetID: mei)

Tidbit 1: Tobu Animal Park

Tidbit 2: Tigers in some famous Japanese paintings

Tidbit 3: Toraya

Tidbit 4: Toranomon District in Tokyo

Tidbit 5: The top-ranking result for the query “Tiger, Japan”

Tidbit 1: Tobu Dobutsu Koen (or Tobu Animal Park) in Saitama Prefecture (next to Tokyo) features three elegant white tigers.

The trio – Ryo, Rocky and Maple – live in a glass “water palace” with a small swimming pool built exclusively to showcase these beautiful animals in the zoo’s Cat World section. White tigers are not a special breed; they are orange Bengal Tigers with pink noses and paw pads, pale blue, green or amber eyes, and white/cream colored fur with black, brown or gray stripes. There are only an estimated 200 white tigers in the world of which Japan is said to be home to 23.

For more information on these white tigers and the Tobu animal park, go to: http://www.tobuzoo.com/(Japanse Website)


Tiger: kanto.stripes.com

Tiger: kanto.stripes.com

Tidbit 2: Tigers in some famous Japanese paintings appear in unnatural poses which are more typical of cats. Why? (See, e.g., works by artists from the Kano school commissioned by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu.)

Tigers are not native to Japan, however, artists from the Kano school were commissioned by the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu to depict these magnificent creatures (along with leopards) to adorn the walls in Nijo Castle in Kyoto (the location of Japan’s Capital at the time). These artist had to rely on on the lore of adventurers who had traveled to China and animal hides brought back by traders. Since Tigers were described as gigantic cat-like creatures, the artists painted what looked like over-sized cats with stripes. This is the explanation given for depictions of tigers in some unnaturally cute and cuddly poses typical of domesticated cats.

More information on Nijo Castle (Nijojo) is available from the JNTOjapan-guide.comKyoto University or other travel sites.

Large reception room of Nijo Castle features pine trees and storks (symbols of longevity

Large reception room of Nijo Castle features pine trees and storks (symbols of longevity

Tidbit 3: Toraya

One of the oldest makers of traditional Japanese confectionery is Toraya, whose name literally means “Tiger Store”. The precise date of its establishment is unknown. However, the earliest records of its existence date back to the 1600′s when Enchu Kurokawa is believed to have founded a famous confectionery business in Kyoto. Toraya has been supplying delicacies to the Imperial family as far back as this period.

Note: Since my sister and I both attended Princeton, my mother always saves the beautiful black boxes and gift bags with gold tigers from Toraya.

Tidbit 4: The Toranomon district in Tokyo is named after the southernmost gate of Edo Castle – known as the “Tiger’s Gate”; Edo is the former name of Tokyo.

Edo Castle (Edo-jo) was built in 1457 by Ota Dokan. It served as the residence for Tokugawa Ieyasu as well as the military capital for the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Edo period (1457-1868). Only some portions of the original castle remain to this day. Since the Meiji restoration it is serving as the residence of the Imperial Palace, but its scope and scale have been reduced significantly. During its heyday, the castle grounds included areas surrounding Tokyo Station, the Marunouchi area, Kitanomaru Park and Nippon Budokan Hall.

Tidbit 5: The top-ranking result using the query “Tiger, Japan” in major search engines is the Hanshin Tigers baseball team.

Founded in December of 1935, the Osaka Tigers is among the oldest professional clubs in Japan. They changed their name to Hanshin Tigers in 1940 due to anti-foreign sentiment, but changed back to Osaka Tigers in 1947. In 1961, the team (once again) assumed their current name Hanshin Tigers. This highly intelligent team definitely knows how to keep an important noun in their name. In another stroke of genius, they chose to have as their sister team in the US, none other than the Detroit Tigers. For further info visit their homepage (in Japanese): http://hanshintigers.jp/

Disclaimer: The information on this page is contributed as an informal guide. It may not be entirely accurate or may be out-of-date and is neither endorsed by the Princeton Club of Japan nor the University (and Alumni Association).